NEW YORK: At around noon on January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will go from being President of the US to a private citizen with more than a dozen investigations and civil lawsuits are circling overhead. From the moment he exits the White House, Trump loses immunity from prosecution that he currently enjoys, the legal peril is real and already gaining momentum, in the wild weeks leading up to the end of his presidency.
Trump has weathered a ton of legal dangers already. He has survived thousands of lawsuits, six bankruptcies and one impeachment inquiry. Yet, two of the ongoing investigations hold more poison arrows than the others and promise to suck up the maximum oxygen.
These are being led by powerful officials in New York. Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan District Attorney, and Letitia James, New York Attorney General, are separately pursuing potential criminal and civil charges related mostly to Trump's business practices before he became President but also new ones relating to the timeline of Trump's one-term presidency.
Still stewing over his election loss, Trump issued a series of pre-Christmas pardons on December 22, and talk has been swirling for weeks now whether Trump will pardon himself. Legal pundits are all over the map on this. Presidential pardons, though, cover only federal crimes. The cases against Trump in New York are outside the federal ambit and the charges here are beyond the realm of a Presidential pardon.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is investigating "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization," according to court documents. Trump's former fixer and personal lawyer Michael Cohen has alleged, in congressional testimony and interviews, that Trump uses two lines of financial reporting: one with higher values to snag loans and another with lower values to minimize taxes to ridiculously low levels.
While Trump has refused to release his tax returns, the New York Times got hold of more than a decade of Trump's tax records and reported that he had paid no income tax for 10 of the years and $750 in each of two other years. Vance's office subpoenaed eight years of Trump's tax documents which went all the way to the nation's highest court. The Supreme Court ruled in October 2019 that Trump could fight the subpoena only on merits, like any other person. New York state law says cooking up business records in the service of an illegal act is a felony. (IANS)